Italy’s New Virus Cases and Deaths Are Stable as Lockdown Eased

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(Bloomberg) -- Italy’s new coronavirus cases and deaths hovered around initial lockdown lows on Monday, as more than four million workers returned to work in a partial easing of the containment measures.

Civil protection authorities reported 1,221 cases for the 24-hour period -- the fewest since March 10 -- compared with 1,389 a day earlier. Confirmed cases now total 211,938. The number of active cases, people who currently have the virus, fell below 100,000 for the first time since April 10.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, facing calls from coalition allies, business and regional leaders to quickly relax almost two months of containment measures that have crippled the economy, allowed manufacturing and construction firms to resume activity, and granted Italians more freedom of movement starting Monday.

Conte has insisted that a faster reopening risks triggering a second wave of the pandemic. Retailers and museums are due to open May 18. Bars and restaurants, which from today can only sell food and drink to be taken away, may open fully on June 1.

The euro area’s third-largest economy shrank 4.7% in the first quarter, the biggest drop since the series started in 1995, and figures published Monday by IHS Markit showed manufacturing in Italy shrank at the fastest pace since the series began in 1997. Demand also plunged, and factories cut jobs at the fastest pace since 2009.

Employers’ lobby Confindustria said Monday that the country will only recover gradually after the lockdown, noting that seasonally adjusted industrial output fell 45.2% in April compared with a year ago.

Italy, the original European epicenter of the outbreak, registered 195 deaths linked to the virus on Monday, compared with 174 the day before. That brings the total number of fatalities to 29,079.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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